Woman Avoids Phone Scam Spreading Through Stateline

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- A Rockford woman says her anniversary helped her from being scammed. It's a phone scam making its way through the Stateline.

Patti Tumilowicz picked up her phone and heard her son on the other line in distress asking for help. He said he had been in an accident and needed mom to send money to get him out of jail.

"You're thinking 'oh my gosh'. I only have one son," said Tumilowicz. "It sounded like Mike."

Tumilowicz was skeptical and asked one question that changed the entire tone of that phone call.

"I said what's the significance of July 2nd," she said. "What's special about July 2nd for me... and there was a brief pause and then he hung up. So then I knew because number one it's my husbands birthday; it's my wedding anniversary; I buried my father 12 years ago today."

Patti just avoided falling victim to what's known as the "granny scam". Scammers randomly call people, often the elderly, saying they're family and say they need money for some kind of emergency. They often sound convincing over the phone.

"That is where [victims] get tripped up," says Dennis Horton of the Better Business Bureau. "Sometimes [victims] believe that in fact their grandson/granddaughter is in trouble and they want to help."

The same thing happened to Kathleen Meade's mother only in her case the scammer got away with two-thousand dollars. Meade was furious and hopes people take precaution.

"Every family should have a safe-word and it should be for all ages," says Meade. "If you say 'what is our family safe-word?' and they don't know it, hang up."

Now that Tumilowicz saved herself from losing money she's able to enjoy an anniversary dinner with her family knowing she didn't get scammed.

Patti and Kathleen are hoping their stories can help others from falling victim.

The Better Business Bureau says we can protect ourselves by never giving out personal information when asked over the phone, never making a payment regardless of how convincing the story is, and by asking tons of questions of the caller especially questions only family know the answers to.

The Better Business Bureau says these "granny scams" usually happen when students leave home for the semester or when they come back for break, which is right about now. That's because our kids or grand children are away from home at school or traveling and it's easier for scammers to fool families.

The Better Business Bureau says when money gets sent families almost never see it again.


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